What I Need to Know About Importing into Canada

Importing is a complex process. More than 227,000 importers deal with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) annually. Most rely on the services of a licensed customs broker to get their shipments cleared at the border.

The following briefly describes steps on what you need to consider (courtesy of CBSA).

Before Importing

Before importing goods into Canada you must:

1. Obtain a Business Number from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for an import-export account.

2. Identify the goods you plan to import. You must have an accurate description of the goods you plan to import before proceeding.

3. Determine which country the goods are coming from and in which country they are manufactured.

4. Make sure the goods are not prohibited from coming into Canada.

5. Determine whether or not the goods you want to import are subject to restrictions or other requirements. 

Tariff Classification, Rate of Duties and Taxes, Value for Duty

Once you are sure that the goods can be imported into Canada, you must determine the:

  • Tariff classification;
  • Applicable tariff treatment;
  • Rate of duty; and
  • Taxes payable when importing goods.

6. You must determine the 10-digit tariff classification number for each item you are importing. These numbers are used to determine the rate of duty payable when importing and to provide statistical data to the Government of Canada.

7. Once you have a tariff classification number, you can determine the applicable tariff treatment and rate of duty, which is found in the Customs Tariff.

8. Determine if your goods are subject to Goods and Services Tax (GST), Excise Tax or Excise Duty.

9. Determine the value for duty on which you will calculate the rate of duty and tax.

10. Calculate duties and taxes.


11. Place your order with the vendor, shipper or exporter, identify the mode of shipping to be used (highway, marine, rail, air, postal or courier service) and determine the desired or expected CBSA office of entry.

12. Ensure your cargo is reported.

13. Be aware that your shipments may be examined.

14. There are two options for getting your goods released. With both options, you may prepare the release and accounting documents yourself or you may hire a licensed customs broker to do so on your behalf. The CBSA licenses customs brokers to carry out CBSA-related responsibilities on behalf of their clients.

15. The CBSA offers other service options to expedite the processing and release of goods. Many of these processes involve electronic data interchange (EDI) technology and have replaced some paper release options.


16. Self-adjustments may result in duties and taxes owing, they may be revenue neutral, or they may result in a refund due to you.


17. You must keep all records pertaining to your importations for six years following the importation of good(s) in either electronic or paper format. This includes information relating to the quantities received, price paid, the country of origin, vendor, product, and all other related information.

Verification by the CBSA

18. All commercial importations may be verified and adjusted for origin, value for duty, or tariff classification for up to four years after importation.

19. As the importer, you (or your representative) have the right to ask for an impartial review of most decisions CBSA makes on the tariff classification, origin, or value for duty of imported goods. 

Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS)

20. AMPS is a civil penalty regime that secures compliance with CBSA legislation through the application of monetary penalties.

Trade Incentive Programs

21. You can reduce or eliminate customs duty on qualifying goods through duties relief incentives. The duty deferral program enables companies to defer or be relieved of the payment of duties. 

22. Some goods can enter Canada duty free.

Customs brokers are trade specialists. Their expertise and experience are the foundation of the most efficient and therefore cost-effective way of importing goods into Canada. Only a licensed customs broker may account for goods and pay duties under Section 32 of the Customs Act as an agent of an importer.